Somaliland is a self-declared state, internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia. Somaliland has its own currency, military, government and flag. At present, the majority of Somalia is unsafe to visit and all government websites will advise against travelling here. Somaliland is different and the safety of visitors is taken seriously. As two female travellers, we had a good experience in Somaliland. Here is some information about travel in Hargeisa and some recommendations on where to stay, where to eat and what to expect.
Do you need a visa for Somaliland?
You must get a visa before entering Somaliland. Whether you will be arriving overland via the border or flying into Hargeisa, you need to obtain your visa beforehand.
If you are travelling in Ethiopia, you can apply for your Somaliland visa in Addis Ababa.
How to get to Somaliland?
Some people will book a cheap flight to Hargeisa and start their visit from the airport. A taxi from the airport should cost USD $15-20.
We travelled overland from Harar in Ethiopia to enter Somaliland. Read more about doing this journey.
In Harar, we stayed at Harari Traditional House which we’d highly recommend. The location is good, the rooms are clean and comfortable and the young girl there speaks good English.
The breakfast here is fantastic too, fresh roti bread with jam/honey and tea and coffee.
The only way to really reserve a room here (as you cannot reserve it online) is to ask another hotel in Ethiopia to call and reserve it for you. Use one of the below numbers to reach a guide who may be able to assist.
(+251) 256 662 211
(+251) 921 872 867
These are the numbers of two local guides in Harar and it’s worth hiring one of them to show you around the Old Town etc. A double room here was USD $20 per night, including breakfast.
If you’d prefer something a little more modern, then Winta Hotel is a good option.
Where to stay in Hargeisa?
Our driver from the minivan we caught here from the border dropped us at our hotel in Hargeisa – The Oriental Hotel.
This hotel is in a good location, downtown. Single rooms are $15. Double rooms are $30. We bargained him down to $25 per night.
Breakfast is included. The hotel is very old, the rooms are quite tired, basic. The twin beds were good, very hard. The wifi was in and out, quite unreliable.
Food was ok at the restaurant and the two men that run the reception, Mohammed and Ahmed were very nice and both speak good English. The service in the restaurant, however, is terrible. You can pay in USD as everything is priced in dollars (because the rates on Somaliland shillings keep changing).
Most main meals are $5, including soup and salad – but make sure you eat before 2 pm. Nothing happens or no hot food is served between 2-5 pm. Goat, fish, and rice are very good here.
What to Wear in Hargeisa Somaliland?
Female travellers must be fully covered. This means a scarf to cover your hair, long loose trousers or skirt and long sleeves.
Somali tea is very good. You can drink this in the hotel for $1 per pot. Coffee is ok, it’s also $1. You can buy big bottles of water here for $1 or in some small shops on the street they are 5000 Somaliland shillings or about 0.50c. Ensure that the caps are sealed correctly.
Money-exchange in Somaliland
The rates keep fluctuating in Somaliland. You will see money changers lining the streets with huge stacks of cash in front of them. The rate when I visited was USD $1 = 10,000 shillings. This made it easy to work out.
Denominations are mostly 1000 notes, with some 5000 notes. Don’t change too much over, just change as you need it as nobody wants to change this currency back to any hard currency once you’ve left Somaliland.
Tips to Keep Safe in Hargeisa
For female travellers, it’s important to be covered correctly when you leave the hotel and explore the city. Nothing happens during the hours of 2 – 5 pm as it’s too hot in Hargeisa. The city comes alive in the evening, however, it’s not recommended to be walking around the city after dark, especially for women travellers. It’s worth reading about our 12 essential tips for safe travel.
If you would like to go out in the evening, I’d recommend asking the guys in reception to arrange a taxi or a driver to take you to/from the place you’d like to go.
People are friendly in Hargeisa, however, you will be approached by beggars and people and kids asking you for money.
Where to Eat in Hargeisa Somaliland
Oriental Hotel – The local food is good here, but the service is not so good.
Great food and good prices. Get local dishes such as foul (beans dip) or shakshuka (scrambled egg with onions, tomato and chilli). All dishes are served with good bread. They make fresh juices for $1.
Women sit upstairs (separate from the men downstairs) and it has a good view of the city from the balcony. The manager speaks great English. No hot food is served here between 2 – 5 pm. This was my favourite place to eat in town.
Barbera Café – Italian Coffee House.
Located inside the Deero Mall, they serve great coffee and cakes here. Espresso or cappuccino costs $2.50-3.00, but it’s well worth it. Delicious cakes cost around $3.50 and they’re very good. It’s a nice café to sit and chill and take a break from the dusty, hot streets of Hargeisa.
Cadaani Café – Roast chicken and chips. A busy place, full of men. Go up to the window and order food to take away.
Another area that is worth mentioning if you’d like to eat at some different restaurants is an area called ‘Chebeysa’. Try Ethiopian, Pakistani, Yemeni food amongst others. You may need a taxi to get here as the walk is a little far from the downtown area where we stayed.
What to Do in Hargeisa
There isn’t too much to do in the city but wander around. The markets are bustling and if you walk through here you’ll no doubt get lots of attention from locals wondering what you’re doing there.
They don’t see too many visitors in this part of the world. There is a cultural centre open to see some African Art and artifacts and a war memorial statue that is quite interesting.
The Central Market is worth visiting – just make sure you’re dressed correctly.
There are options for day trips from Hargeisa, however, foreigners need to arrange for armed guards to travel with you and also a reliable taxi with driver/guide. Hotels can arrange this for you, however, it can be expensive if there is just one or two of you travelling.
Popular Day Trips from Hargeisa Somaliland
Laas Geel – To see some very cool rock paintings.
Berbera – An interesting coastal city worth exploring if you can.
A taxi to Hargeisa airport costs approximately USD $15. It’s a good idea to leave a little earlier, just in case you get caught in traffic on the way out of town.